'American Idol' Top 24 - Big Personalities, Cowgirls and Repeat Contenders

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Steven Tyler was more than happy to let in plenty of country singers this year.
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Steven Tyler was more than happy to let in plenty of country singers this year.

This year's live show for American Idol could be subtitled "Cowgirls and Second Chances." The top 24 contestants will perform on live TV for the first time next week, but we can start getting to know them now, so we're ready to choose our favorites when it's time to vote.

Cowgirl Heaven

Maybe it's because last year's winner was cowboy Scotty McCreery and the judges feel the need for some cosmic balance, but this year's top 24 includes 3 female country singers. There's Bailey Brown, a girl who has, "the total package" - beauty, charm and talent. Bailey excels at infusing her performances with feeling, but her voice isn't among the strongest, and her performances are inconsistent.

Chelsea Sorrell and Skyler Laine are both more traditional, gritty country singers. Chase Likens is the only country guy (although that could change if Richie Law gets the wild card spot).

If At First You Don't Succeed…

There are more repeat contestants in this year's top 24 that ever. Colton Dixon didn't plan on auditioning this year, after his heartbreaking judgment day elimination last season. However his sister, Schylar snagged an opportunity to sing for the judges and Colton tagged along for moral support. The judges prevailed on him to audition with his sister, and the rest is history. He made it and she was eliminated at the end of Hollywood week.

Brielle Von Hugel also made it to Hollywood week last year, but was eliminated. This go round her final performance of "Killing Me Softly," was a tad over acted, but well sung in a bluesy style. It was enough to get her through.

Deandre Brackensick, Baylie Brown, Aaron Marcellus and Holly Cavanagh are also all repeaters.

Personality and Talent

Some of the guys are sure to be fan favorites because of their quirky and exuberant personalities. Others are simply endearing.

Reid Grimm can sing, scat, and think on his feet. He didn't realize he was supposed to prepare a song accompanied by an instrument during Hollywood week, and practiced his song a cappella. With the clock ticking he passed on the vocal coach's plan to pair him up with a piano, and opted instead to accompany himself on the drums (jazz style, of course).

Creighton Fraker was adopted into a preacher's family, but was always drawn to rock and roll. It finally made sense when he learned his birth father is the lead singer of the '80s thrash metal band Flotsam & Jetsam. Creighton has an interesting, gravely voice, though his final performance of "New York State of Mind," can only be described as bizarre (think Axel Rose covering a Sinatra tune).

It's Anybody's Game

It seemed like judges were constantly remarking how good the talent is this year. It's true that there's a depth of uniformly strong talent, but what we're missing is the obvious front runners. The challenge for the competitors is going to be finding a way to stand out. Personality could be determining factor, especially in the first two rounds.

Have you chosen a favorite yet? AmericanIdol.com offers some great resources for getting to know the contestants, including performance videos, still pictures and interviews.

More From This Contributor:

'American Idol' -- How They're Keepin' It Fresh for Season 11

Scotty McCreery Nabs #1 Spot on Billboard Chart

Kara DioGuardi Stars in 'Chicago,' Shares 'True Hollywood Story'

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